Seeing Us on opening weekend, I was surprised by the themes throughout the movie that relate directly to the socio-political climate in Virginia.
Here’s a brief overview of Jordan Peele’s new box-office hit Us: a family goes on vacation, and during their stay the mother seems to be haunted by her past. As the movie progresses, you find that her past has literally caught up to her, as a “tether” or duplicate of herself had found her and her family, along with their tethers.
These tethers come from an underground world, and while they are also technically human, they have lost the ability to speak and they go unseen. While this movie is written to be fiction, Peele aims to create themes that will stick with you and places symbols throughout the film that will keep you thinking.
For me, the aftermath of a psychological thriller always includes discussion. Because of this, the radio show that I co-host with my partner held a community-based one where we invited folks to see the movie with us, and then have a group talk about what we thought. One of the topics that arose was the concept of marginalization and how organizing is used to combat that in Virginia.
The people in the underground world in Us left me thinking about how marginalized folks living within intersections are treated in America, particularly here in Virginia. In the former capital of the Confederacy, it is often up to those same demographics of people– folks of color, Queer and Trans folks, people who have disabilities, non-native English speakers, etc– to educate the majority, and advocate for better treatment.
Marginalization Makes Us Invisible
Marginalization forces people of color like me to the edge of society in Virginia. Throughout the history of this country, the white straight male majority has built a system for themselves, and the further outside of that category you fall, the less you are allowed an active voice or place within it. We feel less important than those who hold power and privilege and are often the target of negative beliefs and judgments. It goes past person-to-person interactions, as this power was purposefully connected to systems that run the country. These systems are the way the country operates, enabling this marginalization to show up on an everyday basis.
That marginalization looks like income inequality–white women make 80 cents to every dollar a white man makes but Black women only make 61 cents and Latina women make 53 cents. Mass incarceration continues and shows up in our schools through the school to prison pipeline, where it has been documented that children of color are subject to disciplinary action, which often involves law enforcement, three times more frequently than their white peers. We also steadily push back against lack of equity in education funding and access to healthcare.
Similar to the shadow people in Us, who have flesh and feelings all the same, people living in marginalized identities have wants and obligations, but we do not receive the same benefits as our white, straight, English-speaking counterparts. We need to join together to work towards equity for marginalized communities by standing in solidarity with one another, showing up in protests, contacting our legislators and urging lawmakers to pass legislation that boosts people living at the margins. We know advocacy makes a difference–just look at Medicaid expansion and campaigns like Fight for 15.
Here in Virginia, the goal here is equity. If that is your fight, join Virginia For All of Us, a campaign to unite us around our vision for the future and build the kind of commonwealth we want to live in.